If you’re looking for a cheap wireless plan for iPhone, FreedomPop is a name you might want to remember. Starting today, the upstart carrier will sell you an unlocked, refurbished iPhone 5 for $349 and throw in a data plan that includes 500MB for $6 a month, along with 500 minutes of free talk time and unlimited texts.
You could go to an even cheaper price point — as in free — and still get 500MB of data, 200 minutes of talk time and unlimited texts. In either case, the data plan includes 4G LTE, the fast wireless technology that’s become a standard— assuming its available where you live — and you do not have to sign a contract.
There is, of course, fine print. FreedomPop is much too small to operate its own network; it resells Sprint service. If you own an unlocked iPhone 4, iPhone 4s or iPhone 5, you can use it with FreedomPop’s service, but it must be Sprint compatible. So unlocked iPhones from another carrier may not work. FreedomPop CEO Stephen Stokols told me that some phones from Verizon might work.
In any case, when you sign up for the service, the website asks you for some identifying numbers from your iPhone to determine if it’s compatible. Sometime later this year, FreedomPop will support the newer iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c, according to Stokols.
Along with the no-contract provision, FreedomPop is rather gentle with customers who blow through their data allotment. If a customer passes 500MB in a month, he's charged just a penny per additional MB, which works out to $10 a GB.
Is $349 a decent price for an iPhone 5? Yes and no. If you’re willing to sign up for a contract with one of the major carriers you’ll get it much cheaper. But unlocked versions cost twice that much at BestBuy, and Apple no longer sells that model at any price.
Stokols says his company has signed up hundreds of thousands of new customers recently, even though it only offered Android phones, and older models at that, until today.
Is there a major downside here? To be honest, I don’t know that there is, but I wouldn’t be shocked if customer service turns out to be an issue. Supporting customers is an expensive proposition, and FreedomPop is obviously a low-margin sort of business. So if the company’s latest ploy yields a lot of new subscribers, we’ll find out in a hurry how good a deal this really is. (If you’re a FreedomPop customer who has had a good or bad experience with the company, please share in the comments below or send me an e-mail.)
In addition to selling iPhone service directly, FreedomPop is also launching an app for iPhone users on other networks. The app offers free voice, texting and voicemail for all iPhone users, though data charges from their existing carriers still apply.
Bottom line: If you’re in an area where Sprint’s network will give you a strong signal, you don’t mind using an older version of the iPhone and aren’t looking for a family plan with lots of data, FreedomPop is worth a look.